Church of Windrush: Three generations of same family who continue to worship together

By ITV News Central Production Specialist Jessica Grizzle

When Constance Donald sailed to England from Jamaica in 1960, finding a church wasn’t in her original plan.

She lived in Moseley with the expectation to work here as a nurse, but eventually found a faith community who welcomed her in.

Over 60 years later she is still a member of her church, having been in its choir for over five decades. 

Constance told me that when she came to this country she wasn’t a Christian, but the woman she lived with in Moseley invited her to church and it started from there.

I asked her what life would have been like if the church wasn’t here and she said: "I can’t imagine what I would do, but coming to church was the best idea".

Bethel United Church of Jesus Christ, Apostolic began in Handsworth in 1955 by Jamaican born Bishop Sydney Alexandria Dunn.

It was, and still is a church home for members of the Windrush generation who travelled to England from the West Indies.

Some had planned to earn enough money to go back to their Caribbean islands, but many stayed, having made this country their home.

Constance, affectionately known as Consie, married Jimmy Lawrence and went on to have seven children.

Her daughter Marcia was born into this church, as well as Marcia’s daughter Alexandria; three generations of the same family who continue to worship together every Sunday. 

Alexandria, Marcia and Constance - three generations Credit: ITV News Central

Marcia has been a member of this church since she was three-and-a-half years old and came with her siblings, but when asked about the church as a whole she told me that: "The church is like a big family anyway, regardless of them being my blood family. It’s a wider family”.

Marcia’s 18 year old daughter Alexandria has been studying for her A-levels as well as attending church and mentioned that “Doing A-levels can be really really stressful, you have a lot of people my age who are cram revising, trying to get in as much as they can do in a short period of time.

"Just knowing that I’ve done what I can do, I’ve gone as far as I can go, and God can meet me halfway and take me the rest of the distance, it just brings a comfort and a peace."

Constance also spoke of this comfort which she experienced as a new arrival here.

Being a part of a faith community helped the members endure the hardships they faced. "We know each other and what we’re going through. It builds us stronger because we’re going through the same stuff. We couldn’t look outside our colour, but we could look inside our community. We could talk and we could share. When we go outside this colour, we get abuse, but when we come back it’s like a comfort".

I asked how important it was for this community to be remembered and her final thoughts were: "It’s nice for them to remember that they sent for us, we were useful then and we would love to be remembered for the good we do. We came to build the country up, and they should remember that."

Within this church and other Pentecostal Churches in the West Midlands, there are many families who remain members decades after the first Windrush arrivals landed here, along with others along the way who found comfort within the community.